Matt Smith raced his way from third place to first in the standings and collected his fifth win of the season on Hector Arana Jr.’s final-round red-light at the Texas NHRA FallNationals.
Smith, who had led eight of the 11 races this season, entered eliminations 32 points behind Steve Johnson and seven behind Angelle Sampey, but after Sampey was felled in round two by Smith’s wife, Angie, and Johnson’s all-conquering Suzuki wouldn’t fire for its semifinal date with Arana, the path was cleared for Smith’s 200-mph Denso EBR to race into the lead.
"It was a great weekend for this Denso team," he said. "we were pretty flawless all weekend. qualifying No. 2, just a tick by Steve Johnson, and we were low [e.t.] every round today, so hats off to my guys . We've got a pretty awesome team and to get that cowboy hat [symbolic of winning this event]; ever since I started my career I've always wanted to win this race and never got it done and just glad to get it done.
"The weather played into our hands; the weather threw everybody a curveball, and I know how to run into these conditions. We ran these conditions in Norwalk earlier in the year we won that race ,and I looked back in my notes. With Angie beating Angelle and two of our bikes in the semi's, you can't ask for much more than that. It was a good weekend for MSR."
Smith, winner earlier this year in Gainesville, Norwalk, Denver, and Pomona, reached his seventh final round of the season, from the No 2-qualified spot then raced to a strong 6.79 on a first-round bye run and posted a solid 6.82 to end Chris Bostick’s Cinderella day. Smith then defeated his wife, Angie, in the semifinals with a 6.88.
Arana Jr., a perennial championship contender throughout his career, was competing in just his fourth event of the season but looked like he hadn’t missed a beat. He drove his Lucas Oil EBR to victories over Kelly Clontz and two-time and defending FallNationals champ Jerry Savoie, then caught a break when Steve Johnson was unable to get his Brady Mechanical/MacRak Suzuki started alongside him in the semifinals.
The final round was Arana’s first since his win at the 2019 Four-Wide Nationals in Las Vegas, where he defeated Smith (and Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines) for the title.
Until this final, Arana had an unblemished final-round record against Smith, having beaten him in five previous finals.